Is a Title Needed to be a Leader?

The July/August Readers’ Digest contained an excerpt from Hector Tobar’s book Deep Down Dark about a mine cave-in which occurred in August 2010 in Chile. The excerpt tells the story of thirty-three miners who spent sixty-nine days trapped in a gold and copper mine nearly a half-mile beneath the surface of the earth. It contains an interesting story that illustrates how a person need not have a title to be a leader.

Shortly after the miners discovered that all routes of escape were sealed and that there was no way out, the shift supervisor told the miners that he was no longer their boss; that, since they are all trapped together, they should make decisions together. While his position that they should make decisions together is admirable, with this decision he removed himself from his leadership position; a position which could have been instrumental in providing guidance in the decision making processes.

Conversely, another miner who has no standing in the mining hierarchy, Mario Sepulveda, decides that he will take control of his own fate and the fate of his fellow miners. He focuses on survival and optimism. When he finds that some of the miners have broken into the emergency food supplies, he stops them from eating those supplies immediately, reminding them that they may be trapped for many days or weeks; that those supplies will be needed. He then tallies the supplies on hand to determine their resources and how to make them last. He creates a plan for a single daily meal and distributes each miner’s portion.

By his actions, Mario Sepulveda showed himself to be a true leader. He held no title, no position of authority. Yet, he directed the activities of his fellow miners, shared his vision of survival, and in the end, made that vision a reality for all of them.

Have you known someone who held no rank, no title, yet stepped into a leadership role and turned a vision into a reality? Click “Comment” and share your experience.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at